Fleas are small, parasitic insects that can be found in many different environments, including homes, yards, and even on pets. They feed off both human and animal blood and can cause an array of issues, including skin irritation and even anemia in extreme cases. While fleas are typically associated with pets, they can also be found on humans, leading to questions about their potential harm.
The truth about fleas and their effect on humans is complex. While it is true that fleas can bite humans and cause skin irritation, the risk of more serious health concerns is relatively low. Learning more about fleas, how to prevent them, and how to treat them if they do become a problem, can help people to better protect themselves and their families from this pesky pest.
What are fleas?
Fleas are small insects that feed on the blood of numerous hosts, including humans and pets. They can survive in almost any environment and can be found in homes, yards, and on pets. There are more than 2,000 species of fleas, with at least 50 species that can feed on humans. There are two types of fleas that are relatively common in the United States — the cat flea and the dog flea. Cat fleas are more likely to feed on people, while dog fleas prefer to feed on dogs. Fleas can be difficult to spot due to their small size and dark color.
They are usually less than 1/8th of an inch long and can vary in color from black to reddish-brown. Fleas tend to be most active at night and hide in warm, moist areas during the day, such as carpets, bedding, and upholstery. Fleas can survive both indoors and outdoors and can jump long distances to move between hosts. All it takes to be bitten by a flea is to sit or lie down on a piece of furniture that has fleas or walk through an area with fleas. You don’t have to have an actual flea on you to be bitten by it.
Symptoms of flea bites on humans
Flea bites are often mistaken for bites from other insects and can cause itching, swelling, and skin irritation. While these bites are annoying, the risk of more serious health concerns is relatively low. Symptoms of flea bites include:
- Itching, irritation, and redness on the areas on the body that were bitten
- Small bumps, which may be red or purple in color, on the skin where the bites occurred
- Swollen lymph nodes in the areas where the bites occurred
- Small black flecks around the areas where the bites occurred
- Scratching the bite site, which can lead to bacterial infection – Flu-like symptoms or allergic reactions in rare cases
Are fleas harmful to humans?
While fleas are capable of causing damage to the skin, their bites are usually not serious enough to require medical attention. Flea bites are not typically associated with serious health concerns or complications. The biggest danger from flea bites is the itching and irritation that can last several weeks.
In rare cases, fleas can also transmit serious diseases to humans, including plague, typhus, and murine typhus. A plague is a bacterial infection that can be fatal if left untreated. Flea bites are also the primary way that the black plague spreads.
How do fleas spread?
Fleas can jump long distances, jump up to 150 times their body length, and can bite both humans and animals. Fleas typically feed on one type of host at a time, but they can feed on multiple hosts if they are unable to find a single host. Fleas can feed on both humans and animals, including dogs and cats.
Fleas can also be found on rodents, birds, and other types of animals, meaning that infested areas may be more difficult to clear out completely. There are several ways that fleas can spread from one host to another. Fleas can spread by jumping from one host to another or by walking between hosts. Fleas can also be spread through shared bedding, clothing, or other items that have been in contact with an infected person or pet.
How to prevent fleas
Fleas can be difficult to eliminate completely, but there are a variety of steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of flea infestation. The best way to prevent fleas is to take preventative measures year-round. This can include cleaning, vacuuming, and grooming pets regularly to clear out eggs, larvae, and other flea eggs. It is also important to avoid bringing fleas into the home in the first place.
This can be done by following the “three D’s”: dirt, drugs, and dogs. The dirt in your yard should be kept clean by removing leaves, grass clippings, and other debris. Drugs refer to the use of insecticides to kill fleas. Dogs can help to prevent fleas by acting as a natural flea deterrent.
Treatment for flea bites
Treating flea bites is largely dependent on the severity of the bites. Mild cases of itching and irritation can be treated using over-the-counter creams or lotions. If a more serious reaction occurs, such as swelling or redness, then a doctor may also prescribe an oral antihistamine or steroid.
If a bacterial infection develops from scratching the itch, antibiotics may be prescribed. Treating flea bites can also include measures to prevent future bites. This may include treating pets for fleas, washing and drying bedding regularly, and vacuuming furniture and areas where pets usually sit.
Flea control and eradication
The best way to combat an existing flea infestation or to prevent a re-infestation is to use a multi-faceted approach. This can include the use of pest sprays or foggers, vacuuming, and frequent cleaning. In some cases, insecticides may be required to get rid of a particularly stubborn infestation, but this should be a last resort. Fleas can be difficult to eradicate completely, but with the right combination of treatments, they can be kept under control.
How to rid your home of fleas
There are a number of things that can be done to rid your home of fleas. This can include using insecticides, vacuuming, and thoroughly cleaning your home. Fleas can lay eggs in many places in your home, so it is important to thoroughly clean everything. This includes carpets, upholstery, bedding, and even pet beds.
Fleas can also be found in many different areas outside the home, including grass and other plants. One of the most effective ways to rid your home of fleas is to treat your yard. Sprays and insecticides can be used to get rid of fleas in your yard and prevent them from entering your home.
Flea prevention tips
The best way to prevent fleas is to take preventative measures year-round. This can include keeping pets indoors, treating pets for fleas, cleaning, vacuuming, and regularly grooming pets. It is also important to avoid bringing fleas into the home in the first place. This can be done by following the “three D’s”: dirt, drugs, and dogs. The dirt in your yard should be kept clean by removing leaves, grass clippings, and other debris. Drugs can be used to treat pets for fleas. Dogs can help to prevent fleas by acting as a natural flea deterrent.
Alternative flea treatments
While insecticides are often used to treat fleas, there are a number of other ways to get rid of fleas. This can include using natural repellents like cayenne pepper or eucalyptus oil. Sprays can also be used in the yard to prevent fleas from entering the home.
Combs and brushes can be used to comb fleas out of pets’ fur, and vacuums can be used to thoroughly clean carpets, upholstery, and other indoor areas. There are also a number of traditional home remedies that can be used to treat fleas. These include the use of baking soda and cornmeal. These can be placed in areas where fleas are likely to gather, such as under pet beds.